Toymaker Television

Daily content for the geek and DIYer

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Parallel LCD + Propeller and in Spin!

You know that feeling when you’ve finally figured out how to communicate with a module - bam, I’ve got this!  But then realize that for another project, you need to do the same thing but in a manner that’s near foreign to you?  Yep. Serial communication with LCDs was my comfort zone.  I knew how to start it, how to talk to it, and I could get information on LCDs as easily as I could turn on a LED.  

The project I’m working on requires communicating to the LCD via parallel LCD as opposed to serial.  The main difference, on the most basic level, is that you need more pins when talking parallel as opposed to serial - 14 in fact versus 3.  You can see why I started with serial communication to a LCD ;).  That said, I looked around for any documentation on getting a parallel LCD to work with the Propeller.  Everything referred me to the object exchange.  So after looking a bit: - download that!  I opened DEMO_LCD_16x2_8Bit.SPIN and LCD_16x2_8Bit.spin

We want to communicate with our LCDs in 8-bit.  So I took a look at the driver (LCD_16x2_8Bit.spin) and see the following picture:


To give you context, the Parallax parallel LCD comes with a header: the diagram on the right, you see that the pins on the header alternate - Pin 1 is across from Pin 2, Pin 3 is across from Pin 4.  So when you compare that to the driver file picture (in yellow):

  • Pin 1 on the header goes to 0V
  • Pin 2 on the header goes to 5V
  • Pin 3 on the header goes to 0V
  • Pin 4 on the header goes to Pin 16 on the Propeller
  • Pin 5 on the header goes to Pin 17 on the Propeller
  • Pin 6 on the header goes to Pin 18 on the Propeller
  • Pin 7 on the header goes to Pin 15 on the Propeller
  • Pin 8 on the header goes to Pin 14 on the Propeller
  • Pin 9 on the header goes to Pin 13 on the Propeller
  • Pin 10 on the header goes to Pin 12 on the Propeller
  • Pin 11 on the header goes to Pin 11 on the Propeller
  • Pin 12 on the header goes to Pin 10 on the Propeller
  • Pin 13 on the header goes to Pin 9 on the Propeller
  • Pin 14 on the header goes to Pin 8 on the Propeller

I believe all of these pins can change, but you’d need to change the CON section accordingly in the driver file.

When I first ran this, the compiler gave me an error because I didn’t have Timing.spin - the only thing it is used for is in PRI INIT and delays things by 15 milliseconds.  So I just did that in normal spin and commented out both the function that was called and the object name (and OBJ section)



Note the quotes :) commenting these portions out.  Then load the demo program, and voila! The demo works!  From here, we should be able to figure out how to get it to say what we want it to say!

Note: You can find the LCD - there!


Filed under parallel lcd parallel lcd and propeller propeller microcontroller propeller uc parallel lcd in spin spin parallel lcd and propeller spin tymkrs parallax propeller parallax obex how to connect parallel lcd to microcontroller how to connect parallel lcd to propeller

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Day 20: 12 hours later…we’re HOME!

Wow.  We started in Scott City, KS - smells like cows and the hotel had shoddy wi-fi, which granted is somewhat expected.  The idea of being able to get home in one day is a strong motivator.  Normally, I’d be trying hard not to nod off while driving on a boring road, but I was ready to rock it this trip! 

We stopped for lunch in Holton Kansas.  Interestingly, they separate their main town square from the highway traffic.  So once we turned off the freeway there, the small town came into view and was super cute.  The one diner place we wanted to try out had JUST closed for the day (note to selves, come back before 1:30), so we went a little sandwich shoppe.  It was interesting, they had 5 sandwich options a month :p.  Wasn’t bad, killer chip dip.

The rest of Kansas went by with a blur, Nebraska went by with a blur, Iowa went by with a blur, and it started getting dark as we came into Minnesota.  

As we were passing over some of the bridges in Minnesota, we noticed that there were these clouds of what looked like smoke.  We then also noticed that the amount of bug guts increased exponentially on the windshield.  2 and 2 together told us that what looked like clouds of smoke were probably either swarms of mosquitos or mayflies.  Yikes!

I know I know, you’re hoping for a mind-blowing, thought-provoking nugget of wisdom after all of the days on the road, right?

Home is good. :)


Filed under roadtrip tymkrs

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Day 19: Off the beaten path

We are writing from middle of nowhere Scott City, KS! We had a long LONG day of driving in the middle of nowhere. But we started in ABQ, and after four hours, went to our favorite Trinidad, CO restaurant Tequila’s where we got some tasty enchiladas.

Then ensued a lot of….shrubbery. After going north on 25 for a while we then went east on 10 which then became 50 which is now….400? Maybe? The big announcement of the day however is that we are finally in deciduous tree country!

Also, if you notice you’re starting to get headaches, you’re probably dehydrated and either need caffeine or beef jerky or both. Usually I drive until the tank’s at a quarter, but every 1/4 on this leg of the trip warranted a trip out. So Mountain Dew and beef jerky, I thank you for keeping Whisker and I alive (mostly me though because it kept me awake while driving).

I think we have one more day before we’re home. It’s going to be another long day, but I’ll recognize the terrain and have a goal. HOME!


Filed under tymkrs roadtrip kansas tequila's

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Day 18: Land of Enchantment + Cassette Tapes

So today’s our last day in ABQ (sad) as we want to get back in time to open up the hackerspace at our place this coming Friday. We had the opportunity to visit our friend’s parents who are responsible for the amazing Toymakers sign over our fireplace mantle and are very creative themselves.

It turned into a love affair with their house :) It was a house they had built themselves and had so much character. Our friend’s mom had reclaimed bar decor from a train and an old brothel and had repainted/decorated them in a time-appropriate fashion and they looked AMAZING. Just antique-ish items around their house that you knew had tons of history. A personal favorite was a neat eye chart they had up in their bathroom hehe. So we met them, had some great conversation, and then before you knew it, it was time to go!

We came home, had dinner, and started writing a silly song about some of the places we’ve seen to record to a cassette on the new 4 track cassette tape recorder we got from the electronics flea market. Guitar, vocals, + upright bass in stereo = win :)

We will be on our way home tomorrow and it ends really one of our most epic trips out yet. We’ve met so many people and done so many different things. It will be somewhat difficult to adjust to home, but we’re also excited to see all of our friends back home and to get working on our own projects after having been inspired by all of the people we’ve met :)


Filed under tymkrs roadtrip cassette electric kodama band

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Day 17: NM food, Electric Kodama Band and MTG

Whenever we roll into town in ABQ, the one thing that makes our day is epic foodness and music with the ninja. This morning started out with Whisker picking up the 12 string guitar, which got the Ninja to pick up his upright bass, and got me to start writing out lyrics we had worked on previously for the songs :). We worked on an Irish-ish song and our “murder ballad” for Rikachee Cafe. And they both sound pretty epic at this point!

We then went to a new-mex restaurant where Whisker got enchiladas smothered in green chiles and cheese, I got tacos, as did the ninja. That restaurant tends to have particularly spicy green chiles. But the coolest part was around the restaurant, about a story up, are balconies where performers can sing. So while eating I’m like “Wait…is that someone singing/playing Spanish guitar or…” And sure enough, in one of the corners is the performer. So good. He later came downstairs and was still performing away!

After that we went back, and finished up some of the tracks with added embellishments such as rattlesnakes and funeral march drums :). Time to get working on that 3/4 track I have a violin piece to! We are btw, the Electric Kodama Band. Be on the lookout ;)

It was soon dinner time and Whisker super wanted ice cream, so we went to a local Chinese place and had some tasty foods. Then went to the local Coldstone (as there was no local local ice cream place), got some ice cream, popped down the truck’s tailgate and sat there in the parking lot at dusk in ABQ eating some ice cream :) Witnessed a few teens going on blind dates too hahaha.

Went back, and thus commenced our yearly MTG game. We’re currently playing a draft game where everyone has to discard 5 cards, the winner gets to choose 5 of that pile, and then everyone gets 10 total from the master card pile. I won this round due to Whisker not having enough cards to draw from *oh ho ho ho*!

And after that, sleepy time :)


Filed under tymkrs roadtrip electric kodama band abq mtg

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Day 16: Route 60 and the VLA

We totally delayed our exit by like…3 hours lol. Whisker nursed his coffee and when he went inside, John ninja-ed and refilled his coffee cup :). (You know Whisker can’t not finish a cup of coffee!!). Whisker told me later he thought it was strange his cup wasn’t going down as fast as it normally does lol. So we hung out some more and Whisker showed his SDR set-up to Lisa who had the proper reaction. Sitting down and saying “Oh my god” over and over :D.

After we peeled ourselves away from their awesome place, we decided to take John’s advice and go on the 60. Normally, the fastest route to ABQ from Phoenix is I believe going north to 40, then zipping east from there. But John had mentioned in years past that 60 was the way to go for a scenic drive, and he was not even slightly exaggerating. After about a half hour or so, you start driving between these craggy rock formations. And that’s not a big deal until you look out the window and notice the steep drop off and the canyons around you!

Truly it became like driving on the side of the Grand Canyon without having to go there. There were some excellent switchbacks, slow turns, steep grades, but it was all just stunning. And after the canyons we ended up in Whisker’s newest favorite terrain. I couldn’t even tell you where it was, but the grass was blonde white.

And it went into hills for as far as the eye could see. It was really quite beautiful. It reminded him of Wyoming, his favorite state, and one-upped Wyoming because it was warm and the grass was just a stunning color. Mind you, that may be because there was a drought, but still :). Anyway, drove through, and before you knew it, there were these little white specks in the horizon, and surrounded by completely flat and non-descript land.

VLA. Woooo. This was something we had wanted to see for the past three years as we’ve always had a trip down to this area at one time or another. In past years, we would have passed it during the night, but since we had the opportunity to do this during the day, that is exactly what we did :) We had fun with their parabolic dishes (they set up two dishes fairly far from each other and when one person talks, the other person can hear because of reflections). We got some part numbers off of a prototyping board set up they had in some telescope thing of theirs so you guys may be able to figure what all it was supposed to do.

And then of course you get to see a massive satellite dish/telescope thing. The way Whisker explained is it’s like a massive SDR (software defined radio). And the thing with normal, smaller SDR is, when you get the radio wave information from the air, it can be translated into a lot of different ways. So you can see colors or waveforms or whatever, it just depends on the translational layer.

These dishes of the VLA get radio wave information from the UNIVERSE depending on the direction they’re pointing and the information can be translated into pictures of the universe. They can also be moved into different configurations on train tracks! Like with the parabolic dishes, you can “hear” echoes/transmissions from out there loudly. So really. Epic. (And maybe I got that all wrong, but it works for me! Or check

So after the VLA, we booked it to ABQ and pretty much inundated Kumi with talk of our travels :) Auntie Addie and Uncle Whisker are going to do a slide show tomorrow :D


PS. You guys get 2 in 1 day since I delayed putting up Day 15! Bonus!

Filed under tymkrs roadtrip vla route 60 very large array

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Day 15: JohnS_AZ, JacGoudsmit, ToddFun

This morning we woke up to a fun filled day with John and Lisa and the other AZ guys Jac and Todd. I spent my morning writing a tumblr post while Whisker-the-Ogre nursed a cup of coffee. We spent some time on the porch just getting used to the heat, playing with the dogs, and watching John smoke some amazing pork starting with a brine solution. After 30 minutes - onion powder, garlic salt, and pepper seasoning. Then he soaked pecanwood in water quickly, wrapped it in foils, poked some holes in the package, and stuck those in his smoker. (Then smoke for 3 hours, wrap tight in foil, then 6-8 hours in a 180F oven.)

I’m getting a smoker!

We went out then for some tasty Mexican and pick up Lisa! Lisa is cool :). Went back, I chatted with Lisa, Whisker went to the grocery store with John to pick up some more goodies for the gettogether at night with Jac and Todd. It was a genuinely nice and relaxing day. And then, we decided to go into the workshop where Whisker fixed his power supply for the 4-track cassette recorder he had bought earlier in the trip at the electronics flea market. John also had a storage shed full of electronics that he hadn’t opened in EIGHT years.

So we did that - well more like John opened it up, Whisker stood by, and I videotaped and got distracted by the dogs. Jac soon came and the three guys were diving in, cleaning electronics off, and just a great time of hanging out. After sticking all of the loot into our cars, we ate!

First. JohnS_AZ is an awesome cook. Like wtf. so good. The pork was perfect. And the macaroni salad was awesome. (Macaroni, mayo, dijon mustard I think, onions, celery, and tiny shrimp, salt, pepper)!

So we ate, Todd, his sister and son came by, we ate, chatted, saw a scorpion (!), and just enjoyed the evening. And after the other company left, we totally kept Lisa and John up until the odd hours of the night. We didn’t want the evening to end because tomorrow we’d have to leave!!!


Filed under tymkrs roadtrip

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Day 14: JohnS_AZ and Heatsync Labs!

Today was our journey from crazy-trafficy-SoCal to JohnS_AZ’s abode of awesome :D. Whisker likes to find these middle-of-nature roads for our first hour of travels before getting onto the main highways and managed to find a nice one that went through some of the hills through Loma Linda. Craziest thing was seeing a one lane road become completely packed with cars for miles - luckily going in the opposite direction from us. Morning commute was not cool for them! A lot of ranches along the road with orchards just completely laden with oranges and other fruits.

Went through the Mojave, and it was actually a pretty short drive, around 5 hours or so to Phoenix. The interesting thing about Phoenix roads is, they’ve actually built according to their needs. So there’s tons of space on the road for any maximal amount of traffic they’re bound to have during rush hours. Refreshingly common sensical!

John’s house is awesome. It’s got like legitimate cacti and an orchard of citrus trees, and he has been an awesome host! He made some delectable burgers, plus green chiles for Whisker of course. And his dogs are as awesome as they sound on IRC hahaha. Each with their own personality and they follow him around like ducklings :D. His pool is also as awesome as everyone thinks :D. Workshop is fully decked, and power tools galore!

In the evening we went to HeatSync, to a meetup sponsored by Hackaday (thanks!), and met Todd Harrison of ToddFun, Jacob Rosenthal, Jac Goudsmit and quite a few other regulars of the hackerspace. For a Thursday night, they had a crapton of people. Some were deep in thought in their projects, some were sharing projects they had already made or were working on, and some were just hanging out (like us!). It was a pretty impressive space, with all of the chaos of a working hackerspace :). This one is the second “formal” hackerspace we’ve been to, and gives us a good idea how to grow the Rabbit Hole. But it also gives us an idea of how to deal with growing pains.

Then went back, enjoyed a late night chat about projects and such with the John and then passed out!


Filed under tymkrs roadtrip heatsync labs johns_az hackersbench

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Day 13: California dreamin’

So today we drove from Rocklin, CA to Loma Linda, CA and it started with a nice breakfast with Joe and Roy! Joe was going to go for a run and Roy was going to go back to sleep hehe. Though we were sleep deprived, we had to leave! We drove the 5 down, which actually wasn’t a bad drive thankfully, and ended up in 100 degree weather down at my college friend’s place in Loma Linda.

He was still at work, and another one of my dear college friends was on her way from downtown LA. It eventually took her 3.5 hours (nearly) to get from downtown LA to Loma Linda just because of the traffic!!! Craziness!

So hello to Tim, Amy, Mun, and Jen :) They’re THE BEST! We had some great Thai food (Whisker’s first time) and Tim totally owned us in pool. We still think they should come up to Rochester to visit :D.

PS. Shade in SoCal is probably why so many people are still willing to live in SoCal

PPS. We saw a LOT of desert that you could tell was formerly lush. And signs all over in regards to the drought, and water that was being diverted from orchards to the city. I heard the landowners however, wanted to not have to pay for the water. Hum.


Filed under tymkrs rocklin parallax roadtrip

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Day 12: Parallax!

We got to sleep in again this morning - so unfortunately we were unable to say bye to Keely and the kids - thank you all for having us!!!! We went to Davis for the burgers in Burgers and Brew and met up with some old college friends of mine. It was really nice to get to see them and catch up with them. Some things never change :)

Afterwards, we drove to Parallax and met Parker Dillman (@lnghrnengineer) and Roy, always a pleasure to get to see and catch up with. We went to Parallax and saw Daniel, David, and Ken - again, always great to get to chat with them. Talked for a long time, went to eat at Mel’s Diner, then talked way late - catching up, learning what everyone is up to, and getting tours of the awesome manufacturing floor even!

It was interesting to talk with people on all sides of the electronics circle - manufacture, design, administration, research/development, user. There are some issues plaguing the entire process and knowing what to do given those obstacles will be a discussion that will need to be continued.

But either way, it was nice to see everyone and have a mini Parallax Expo :)


Filed under Parallax tymkrs roadtrip parker dillman roy eltham